Happy birthday, Christchurch City Libraries!

Canterbury Public Library building, Circa 1903-1907, CCL Flickr

My family and I moved to Christchurch at the beginning of 2009, and one of the first things we did – as you do – was go to the library and sign up for a membership. The staff probably cringed when they saw the five of us arrive, but they were so nice and helpful and friendly, it was amazing.

We had gone into Central Library because the concept of more than one library in a town was a bit unknown to us, and after we collected our cards we set off exploring…

Storytelling pit, Children's Library
Storytelling pit, Children’s Library, Ground Floor. 1995. Flickr File Reference: Arch52-BWN-0026

Did you know there was a WHOLE ROOM just for children? An aisle of science fiction? (Our favourite) young adults had it’s own space! There were heaps of CDs and DVDs. And magazines. There was even an upstairs with a whole floor of non-fiction… It was bliss.

And when we went to the beach we found a library.  Then another one when we did grocery  shopping at Bishopdale Mall, then another one out at Diamond Harbour (where we got the best ice creams this side of Pleasant Point). After 20 years of living in small towns in New Zealand, Christchurch City Libraries was a revelation.

New Central Library
New Central Library, Flickr File reference: 2015-03-26-Plaza-Day-new

Well, we all know that the Central library built in 1982, is no more. And like a phoenix rising  from the ashes, a new library will be built on Cathedral Square. Hey, that could be a good name for it: The Christchurch Phoenix, what do you think?

So what other milestones has the library seen in it’s 157 years:

  • 26 May 1859 opens as the Mechanics Institute library, based in the Town Hall. Membership was for paying members only, and the subscription was set at one guinea per annum or seven shillings and sixpence per quarter
  • In 1863, the library moved to a new wooden building on the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street.
  • Canterbury College took over the running of then named Canterbury Public Library in February 1874.
  • In 1920 a travelling library service to country areas was begun: boxes of books, which were changed quarterly,  were sent to places like Darfield, Mayfield, Culverden and Hinds
  • Uncle Jack (Librarian Ernest Bell) and Aunt Edna (Edna Pearce) created a children’s radio show on 3YA in the 1920s, broadcasting stories, plays, poems and songs
  • In 1948 ownership of the Library was handed over to the Christchurch City Council (after decades of wrangling, in true Christchurch fashion!)
  • 1952 – finally – free borrowing introduced
  • 1975 first computerised lending system introduced
  • 2 February 1982 the Governor-General, Hon. Sir David Beattie officially opened the new Public Library building on the corner of Gloucester Street and Oxford Terrace. Warren and Mahoney were the architects and C. S. Luney Ltd was the principal contractor for the building
  • 1989 Christchurch City Libraries starts Australasia’s first public library online catalogue
  • 1996  last card catalogue unit taken away
  • 2001 Ngā Pounamu Māori centre opened
  • 2009 150th Anniversary celebrated in many ways, including the provision of free wifi
  • 2014 Central Library demolished
  • 2017 New Sumner library due to open
  • 2018 Opening of the New Central Library

Happy birthday Christchurch City Libraries – may you have many more!

Books for babies 20th anniversary
Books for babies 20th anniversary, 2011, Flickr File reference CCL-2011-02-07-Books-For-Babies-20-P1040243

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